Events and Hospitality at Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, South Carolina

If you’re looking for a place to hold your private event in Columbia, South Carolina, Riverbanks Zoo and Garden may be the perfect place! With several special and exotic spaces, our rooms and patios make us a unique event venue. Our on-site catering, fun menus, bar options, packages can be customized to suit your event’s needs, whether it’s a Birthday party, a tailgate for the big game, corporate event, meeting, or seminar, or a romantic wedding, we make it more than run of the mill!

While we’re closed due to Covid-19, we thought we’d share some of the great things folks have said about our events and event team at Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens.

Nicole, Wedding, March 2020
Everyone did a wonderful job! I never felt that the staff was going to let anything fall through and everything Riverbanks had a hand in went according to plan, except for the zoo closing the indoor exhibits (Covid-19), but that isn’t their fault. I’m so relieved the zoo and gardens stayed operational until the morning after our wedding. Thank you for the wonderful memories!

Events and Service, Outstanding!

Michelle, Family Reunion, July 2019
The entire event and service were outstanding.

Caroline, Seminar, February 2020
The staff, food, and location were great! We will be back to host another event.

Meghan, Birthday Party, February 2020
Pizza and chips were far better than expected! Actually got a ton of compliments! Brittany was very helpful and prompt and great communication. Easy to allow our photographer in and the zoo staff was not intrusive at the party. Thank you!

We hosted a 100th Birthday party in 2018 at Riverbanks Zoo!

Unique Corporate Events and Holiday Parties

Thomas, Corporate Event, January 2020
We chose Riverbanks Zoo & Gardens as a venue for our annual sales kickoff meeting and I was impressed by the flawless organization from the initial contact through the event itself. What a great venue. We’ll be back.

Kevin, Corporate Holiday Party, December 2019
The compliments started pouring in almost immediately about the venue, then the food. Our team is made up of a number of nationalities, and some are pretty picky about their Indian food. Everyone I spoke with thought the custom buffet was excellent! The selection and flavors were outstanding. In addition – the hors d’oeuvres that we selected were well prepared, hot, and very tasty.

Many people expressed their great joy with the venue and the zoo lights events, as well. The Ndoki lodge was perfect for us, and most of our team was able to walk the zoo to enjoy the festivities, the animals, and the wonderful decorations and lights.

You and your team really made this a wonderful and extremely successful event for our team, and I’m personally grateful. It seemed very easy and professional, and I’ll be glad to share our experience. You have set a very high bar for our celebrations now.

Pamela, Corporate Holiday Party, December 2019
I received good feedback from the group of how nicely this event was set up, and the evening was perfect for viewing the lights at the zoo. I will recommend you all to others in the future. Thank you for a job well done.

Rebecca, Corporate Holiday Party, December 2019
Our associates had a wonderful time at your venue for our 2019 Holiday Party! The room was decorated nicely, there was more than enough space for our 90+ guests, our vendors were set-up with ample room, and the wait staff was efficient and friendly. Great feedback on most of the food, especially the chicken fingers, crab croquettes, and risotto balls! Overall, we were very pleased with the event and how everything was handled.

holiday party catering an event venue in Columbia SC

Guests Will Rave About Your Special Event

Christina, Birthday Party, November 2019
My daughter truly enjoyed her birthday, and the experience at the zoo was great. Thank you so much!

Laura, Wedding, October 2019
The room was fantastic. The room was great and it helped us enjoy our event. The food was excellent. We’re still getting positive reactions/comments about it. The wait-staff, servers, bartender, and cooks were all very nice and accommodating. We were highly satisfied with their service!

Donna, Company Picnic, October 2019
This is our 3rd Event with you and it has been awesome every time. We had such a good time we forgot to take pictures this year! Thank you.

Elizabeth, Rehearsal Dinner and Wedding, September 2019
We had a wonderful experience having our rehearsal dinner and wedding at Riverbanks! The staff was friendly and responsive, and Aimee Wicker (our on-site weekend-of wedding coordinator) was phenomenal, along with Amanda Neel (weekend-of contact). She was very prompt and responsive and brought us everything that we requested, in a timely manner. I would definitely use Riverbanks in the future!

Zach, Promotion Celebration, September 2019
An outstanding event all around. We really enjoyed using the Sea Lion Landing. The food and wait staff were superb.

Ready to see if Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens is the event venue for you?  Give us a call, or fill out our inquiry form today and let’s talk about it!

We originally wrote this article in January 2018, but the fact still remains that wedding planning can be a daunting thing to start.  We’ve compiled some step-by-step wedding planning tips that still apply today, and added a few new ones – like tips for a smooth bridal styling experience! Read on, and let us know how we can help you with your wedding or another private event in Columbia, South Carolina!

Newly engaged? Congratulations! What’s next?

Were the holidays a little more special for you this year? If the question was popped to you by your special someone, congratulations! Getting engaged is a very special event in your life, but quickly after that comes the daunting task of planning a wedding. It can certainly be stressful, however, it can also be a really fun and rewarding process. We have a Sales Representative that specifically works with all of our bridal events. He has put together a few tips on how to get your thought processes and planning procedures in order before you dive into planning your special day.

exotic outdoor garden wedding ceremony venue in Columbia, SC

Where to Start Planning a Wedding

Budget – Set a budget. Weddings can be very expensive. Having some sort of budget in mind before you get started will allow you to use your time wisely and only view those venues that will fit your budget.

Season – You may not know the date yet, but go ahead and pick a season you are interested in. Winter, spring, summer, or fall? Each has amazing months to get married in. Be sure to ask if your venues/vendors that you are interested have ‘off peak’ seasons.

Day of the Week – While Saturdays are the traditional day for weddings think about if you’re open to a Friday or Sunday, especially if there may be a discount involved.

Guest Count – While we know that you won’t have your final guest list done, going ahead and getting a fairly accurate estimated guest count before you start to inquire to venues will save you a lot of time. No reason to look at a space that is way too small or way too big for your group. Also, having an estimated guest count will help your venue’s event sales staff give you the most appropriate pricing. If you are flexible, that is even better! For more intimate weddings, The Birdhouse is a scenic and charming venue.

Fountains and Botanical Gardens at the Magnolia Room, a perfect Garden Wedding Venue in Columbia, SC

Wedding Themes and Styles

Theme – Do you have a certain aesthetic you are going for? Garden party? Rustic? Classic? Traditional? Unique? Pinterest is a great place to find some ideas that catch your eye. Once you have your general theme down, start looking for venues that will compliment your style, but also don’t forget to be open. Many venues can be transformed to fit your vision. The Ndoki Lodge is furnished in rustic African style with massive exposed beams and banks of oversized windows overlooking the tropical forest foliage. The ARC, short for the Aquarium Reptile Complex, is an unusual and unique indoor venue with a stunning 55,000-gallon coral reef display hosting jellyfish, crocodiles and even sharks serving as its centerpiece.

Ceremony Location – If you would like to have your ceremony in the same location as your reception then you’ll want to make sure you’re looking at venues that have the space for that as well. The Magnolia Room, located in the midst of our spectacular botanical garden, and its romantic bricked terrace are the ultimate location for a dazzling ceremony and reception. Check out all of the Riverbanks Zoo’s beautifully exotic venue options here.

Tour our Unique Wedding Venue

Venue Tours – Once these items above have at least been talked about, start reaching out to venues that you may be interested in. Schedule a tour to view them in person. Sometimes photos can be deceiving. The Knot and Wedding Wire can be a great place to start finding venues in your area.

Book VenueLocking down the venue should be your first, formal step in the wedding planning process. Without a venue, there is no need to book other vendors such as floral, cake, entertainment, etc. as many venues have specific policies about who you can use for these other services.

Ndoki Lodge - elegant unique wedding venue in Columbia, South Carolina

On-site Event Catering

Additional Vendors – After your venue is booked, start to do some research about other vendors you may want to use. Be sure to check in with your venue before you start this process. Do they have a preferred vendor list or mandatory vendors? If so, great, less work for you! If not, certainly ask them for their professional opinions.

Schedule Vendor Visits – Once you have a list of preferred vendors that you are interested in working with schedule cake tastings, floral shop visits, etc. to narrow down and book those vendors.

Ndoki Lodge makes for a rustic outdoor wedding venue with unique views of the elephants, and coming in 2020 -the Northern White Rhinos!

5 Things your Bridal Stylist wants you to know:

Finding the perfect gown can be exciting and fun, but it can also be overwhelming and a little daunting.  We spoke to a former bridal stylist and bridal suite manager for some tips on how to make gown shopping go smoothly and sweetly.

Make an appointment.   Most bridal shops operate by appointment, as they are usually smaller spaces with often only a single sample of each dress.  To ensure that you have a stylist’s attention, a fitting room and couch space available, and the gowns you hope to try on, be sure and book ahead.  If you have folks coming in from out of town, limited availability, or are looking to shop on a busy weekend, be sure to plan in advance, as there may only a be a few appointments available a day.

Limit your entourage.   It can be tempting to bring your whole gang of friends, everyone who is “Team Bride” and make a party of the try-on experience, but for several reasons, we suggest winnowing that group down to only the folks who matter the most.  Too many opinions and voices can be confusing and lead you to decisions that might not be yours. Keep in mind that as noted above, many bridal shops are small, and will have limited space available for guests. Keep in mind that you might be sharing the space with other brides and their families as well.

Do your research.    It’s fully okay to go into an appointment not knowing what you want, and trying on a few very different options, but if you’re looking for something particular, bring an inspiration photo, and ask if they have something like it when you book your appointment.   Questions to ask when booking your appointment may be:  Average price point? Designers carried? What sizes are their samples? How private is the fitting area? Do they limit the number of guests? How long will the appointment last? Do they provide tailoring?

Be honest about your budget and don’t go outside of it, unless you’re willing to spend it.   Be honest with both your self and your stylist with what your budget is.  Keep in mind that alterations are not often included in the gown price, and can be an additional several hundred dollars, depending on what needs to be done.  Then – stay within your budget! If you fall in love with something outside your budget, you’ll almost never find a “look for less” as good as the original, and you’ll spend forever looking, or comparing other gowns to the “gown on a pedestal.”

Come prepared.    Think about what you’re looking for, and dress accordingly!  Wear undergarments appropriate for the gown you’re shopping for – strapless, backless, nude, shaping, etc. Keep in mind that your bridal stylist might be in the fitting room with you helping you into the gown.  Do your hair and put on a little makeup so you have an idea of what you’ll look like on that day. If you have something special that you plan to wear with your gown (grandmother’s pearls, a special sweater, or vintage gloves), bring it with you to see how it plays. Be on time, or be aware that you might have less time to try on.

And Remember: There are no wrong answers for your choice.

  • If you wear it to your wedding, it’s your wedding gown! (Or pantsuit, or t-shirt, or whatever!)
  • No one else will know what you didn’t choose!  (Have you ever been to a wedding and thought “I wish the bride had worn a different gown?” NOPE.)
  • AND:  If you got married during your wedding, your wedding was a success.  Anything can happen, go wrong, not be as expected, or even be a disaster — but if you get married, at the end of the day that’s all that matters isn’t it?


South Carolina Wedding exit with sparkler sendoff at Riverbanks Zoo


Dear Earth - Will you be out Valentine? Check Y/N. Love, Riverbanks Zoo & Garden

Love is in the air this month. And we couldn’t think of a better Valentine than Mother Earth herself. While some rush to the store for flowers, candies, and trinkets for that someone special, we’re making sure to stock up on our compostable dining ware and recycling bins! After all, Riverbanks Zoo & Garden takes pride in being a “green” destination for events year-round and for every day visitors. Take a look at some of the sustainable efforts in place at our event venues and around the park:

Sustainable Green Efforts at our Event Venues

Sustainable Green Farm to Table Garden Event Venue Columbia SC

  • ‘Over 30 varieties of delectable vegetables and herbs have been harvested from our very own garden for use in our restaurant and event dining.
  • In 2019, composting efforts within our catering operations resulted in 25,822 pounds of waste diverted from landfills.
  • Riverbanks Zoo & Garden has been leading monthly river sweeps since May 2018. Since then, over 5,000 pounds of toxic trash has been removed from the banks of the Saluda River. More than 2,100 pounds of that litter was recycled.
  • Our cooking oil goes through a complete storage, filtering and disposal system. Not only does this system double the usefulness of cooking oil by removing fine particles daily, it also reduces landfill waste by eliminating the need for plastic jugs and reduces emission of harmful greenhouse gases by cutting down excessive transportation. Additionally, once the oil reaches the end of its usefulness, it is taken to an off-site facility for recycling.
  • We have eliminated single-use plastic lids and straws in our concession stands.

Our flagship restaurant, Tuskers, was named one of the greenest restaurants in the state by the Green Restaurant Association in 2014. Tuskers is the usual “home base” for event food prep.

  • Last year, Riverbanks Zoo & Garden raised over $30,000 from various activities with our guests, including the sale of compost, to help support our wildlife Conservation Fund.
  • In 2020, we aim to be a zero-waste caterer by converting all remaining single-use plastic items to compostable, recyclable or reusable options!


In 2020, we aim to be a zero-waste caterer by converting all remaining single-use plastic items to compostable, recyclable or reusable options!

A recent 2020 Event Trends report published by Eventbrite reflects survey results from event organizers around the world and attempts to predict how the industry may change in the coming year. We were excited to learn that planners’ priority in creating sustainable events increased 53% from 2019’s results! This means that organizers are becoming more conscious of their events’ impact and are taking more steps than ever to give back. This also means they’re choosing venues that can accommodate their greener vision!

If you’re looking for a chance to check out our event options in person, we’ll be hosting our semi-annual Private Event Showcase this March in the Botanical Gardens. Not only will we have some of our delicious food and beverage options available for tasting, you’ll also have an opportunity to view the Magnolia Room venue and ask questions about our sustainable practices. If you’re interested in taking advantage of this opportunity to see how events at Riverbanks can look and feel, let us know and we’ll add you to our invite list!

Learn about the ways that Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is upping their sustainability as a green event venue in Columbia! Then, check out the Magnolia Room at our Spring Private Events Showcase in March!

We’re proud to be a green event venue South Carolina

We hope everyone can find some time this month to show a little love to each other and our planet! As we head into a blossoming event season, we’re excited to keep showing our clients how little efforts make a big impact. We are proud to be a leading supplier of unique, fun events that you can feel good about hosting in the Capital city! Contact us today at 803.602.0900 or to start your planning process.

Green event catering venue South Carolina

The newly engaged guide to the wedding planning process


Getting Started

Congratulations! Your engaged, now what? Your engagement is an exciting time, but can also be overwhelming as you try and navigate the planning process. Whether you have been engaged for an hour, a day, or even a year, here are three tips that will help you make the most of your time before you say “I do.”

South Carolina Wedding exit with sparkler sendoff at Riverbanks Zoo

Lay the Foundation

Just like building your dream home, your first step in planning your dream wedding should be laying the foundation of your wedding. So before you jump directly into planning all the fun details such as trying on dresses and stuffing your face with cake samples you need to lay down your wedding foundation – your budget and your guest list. Your budget and guest list not only lay the foundation for every other step in the planning process they also directly affect each other. Setting this expectation on the front end will help you to enjoy all the finer details later on.


Budget – Planning Tips

Setting the wedding budget with your fiancé and family should be the VERY first thing you do. Make sure you have an open conversation about what everyone is able to contribute financially.


When creating your budget keep in mind the items that are most important to you so you can allocate your money accordingly. Another helpful tip is to assign a dollar amount to different categories.

Cushion Your Budget

Plan on spending about 10 percent more than what you had estimated on the front end. As any good South Carolina wedding professional will tell you, things will cost more than you think they will.

Look for Ways To Save

There are many ways to save money on your wedding. Inviting fewer guests is the number one way you will save money on your wedding day. Other ways to consider saving is by scheduling your wedding for an off peak month or day. You may also want to consider a wedding brunch or a reception style menu instead of a formal sit-down dinner.

Unique South Carolina Wedding Venue 2020 - Aquarium Reptile Center at Riverbanks Zoo

Determine the Date and Select the Venue – a 2020, Columbia, South Carolina Wedding

In order for all the little details, such as booking South Carolina wedding vendors and creating a timeline, to fall into place you need to set a date. Easier said than done! The process of setting a date can be a little more complicated than it may seem. We’re listing some questions below that you should ask before choosing a date and selecting the perfect place to day “I do”.

  • What are you looking for in a venue?
  • Will the space accommodate all of your guests?
  • What’s included with the space you are hoping to secure?
  • How does your “ideal date” fit with your budget?
  • What is the reservation and deposit process?
  • Will you be the only wedding there that day?


Define Your Style and Make it Yours

Whether you have been imagining this day from the time you could walk or the only detail you know is that you can’t wait to see your partner at the end of the aisle, designing your day can be a formidable task. It is important to define what your vision is so that each vendor, component, and detail fits your wants and needs.

As you begin the planning process of incorporating the details you envision with your budget, keep in mind that your wedding should always reflect you as a couple and there is always room for give and take.

South Carolina Wedding Bridal Party at rustic and beautiful Riverbanks Zoo

Four S’s To Begin Designing Your Columbia, South Carolina Wedding

Style –  Is it a formal event? Is it more casual? Is it a daytime or evening affair?

Setting – Are you inside a church, a hotel ballroom, in a garden, at the Zoo?

Size – Is your day more intimate with only close family and friends? Or are you envisioning 400+ guests? Maybe it’s somewhere in between.

Spending – What do we want vs. what can we afford to host? How does your budget come into play with your vision? What is your budget?

When your wedding day is said and done, the food will have been eaten, the DJ will play the last song, and your guests will go home with memories of an amazing Columbia, South Carolina Wedding. As important as all the planning and details seem, it helps to remember that the celebration goes beyond the wedding day and is truly about you two and your commitment to each other.

If you’d like more information about hosting your big day at Riverbanks Zoo & Garden, you may give us a call at (803) 602-0900 or contact us via email.

This has been quite a year for Riverbanks Zoo & Garden’s Events and Hospitality team.

In 2019, we had the honor of hosting over 280 private events in our Columbia, South Carolina event venue, with a total of 34,886 guests. While we host several varieties of events, our year looked a little like this…

  • 55 Weddings
  • 61 Corporate Meetings
  • 35 Corporate Picnics
  • 23 Corporate Receptions
  • 30 Holiday Parties
  • 37 Kids Birthday Parties


holiday party catering an event venue in Columbia SC

New in private events at the Zoo

Being one of the top Zoos in the country means that we’re always growing and changing. Here are a few of the new things we welcomed in 2019:

  • This spring we opened our all-new Farmyard, offering a bigger and better farm experience for guests of all ages. The new Farmyard features up-close encounters, an interactive walk-in yard, play structures for kids, climbing structures for our kid goats, and plenty of hands-on family fun!
  • We continued working towards our mission to impact conservation. We are actively changing out all single-use plastic for compostable or recyclable options. We are proud to say we will reach that goal by the end of 2019! We’re also incorporating Zero-Waste stations in all of our venues to make recycling and composting that much easier for our event guests.
  • We bid a bittersweet farewell to Belle, our 37-year-old African elephant. Belle moved to Milwaukee County Zoo and is enjoying her new home and slowly meeting her new herd. Following Belle’s departure, Riverbanks plans to re-introduce and breed Southern white rhinos. The Southern white rhino exhibit is slated to open in the summer of 2020.
  • Riverbanks became home to 36 coral colonies that have been rescued from the Florida Reef Tract (FRT), the third-largest reef tract in the world, where an unidentified disease is causing critical coral loss. The rescue project is two-fold: 1) to prevent extinction along the FRT, and 2) to maintain as much genetic diversity as possible in preparation for restoration and possible future habitat disturbances.


Animal events venue Columbia SC

New Events Team Members in Weddings and Venues, Sales and Catering

This year we promoted and welcomed some exceptional folks to our team!

  • Amanda (Leszczyszyn) Grimsley was promoted to Wedding Sales & Venue Coordination. Amanda has been a member of our Sales team since 2016 and continues to show a true appreciation for all events while ensuring each and every client she works with has an enjoyable experience.
  • We welcomed two new faces to our Sales Team: Kate Freeman and Brittany Buckner. Kate joined the team in February, overseeing Corporate Event Sales and Brittany joined our team in October, overseeing Private Event Coordination.
  • We also welcomed Holly Gerow to our Catering Team as our Assistant Catering Manager. Deanna Davison will be joining our team later this month as our Catering Manager. Combined, both of these ladies bring with them over 27 years of catering experience!


Private Event Catering Columbia, SC

 Private Event Highlights from the Year – Employee Dinners, Holiday Parties, Plated Dinners

We truly enjoyed working with each and every client on their event. While we’d love to share the excitement of each event, here are a few highlights:

  • We hosted our largest holiday party this year, totaling just over 625 guests! This group went with a heavy hors d’oeuvres/stations menu, so their guests could flow in and out of the venue and explore Lights Before Christmas on their own time. They also added an outdoor fire pit to roast s’mores, which was a fun treat for their guests!
  • We also had the pleasure of hosting our largest plated event, which took place in the Safari Camp – our sheltered pavilion located in the heart of the Zoo. The lunch was for 285 guests and their custom plated menu included London Broil and Chicken Saltimbocca. YUM!
  • We had a great time working on a fun employee dinner for a local HVAC company. These folks truly went all out and enhanced their event by including visits from a few of Riverbanks’ mascots, giraffe feeding, face painting and tons of food. We hear their guests were raving about this unique event for weeks and we’re so glad we had the chance to be a part of it!


Private Bar Tuskers Event Columbia, SC

While we enjoy looking back on this great year, we’re also looking forward to what 2020 brings! If you’re interested in booking your Columbia, South Carolina event with us next year, you may contact us at (803) 602-0900 or at

If you’re planning an event, whether big or small, you understand that the planning can be overwhelming. There are so many things to cover like picking a venue, hiring vendors, sending out invitations, etc., but one of the most important parts about any event is the food.

Private event catering Columbia, SC

Private Event Catering Menu Style

The first thing you need to determine is menu style. This is particularly important for evening events.

Plated – This is going to be your most formal option and one that we feel works best when hosting an awards banquet or some sort of presentation during dinner. The reason being, plated dinners include table service which will help prevent your guests from walking back and forth for food while someone is addressing your group, as a whole.

Family Style – This type of service has become very popular in recent years because it’s less formal than a plated meal and it allows a casual and comfortable setting at any event. This type of style brings the food to your table but allows each person to pass around dishes and serve themselves.

Buffet – Going with a buffet menu is a great in-between. It allows your guests to help themselves as they arrive to the event, but also provides the full plate. Buffets are great because they allow your guests to match their dinner choice to their individual tastes and appetites. Buffets are also great for groups that are going to flow in and out.

Heavy Hors D’oeuvres/Reception Style – This is by far the most popular option that we see here at Riverbanks. Going this route allows you to create a diverse menu and allows your guests to socialize, mingle and help themselves throughout the event.


Small bites catering for a private event at Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, SC

Tailor your menu selections for your own private event catering

Picking a menu for a group, whether large or small, can be challenging. Choosing a menu isn’t just about finding something that will keep your guests full – it is part of the experience. When planning an event, it’s important to keep your guests’ preferences in mind which is why we always suggest working towards a menu that will accommodate lots of different tastes.

Plated – If you’re going with a plated menu and you want to give your guests a choice of entree, then you’ll need to plan on requesting that information from them ahead of time. You’ll also need to provide name cards for each guest specifying the individual’s entree selection and/or assigning guests table numbers and seats. If you’re looking to do plated, but don’t want to mess with counts and table assignments, you can always do a duo-plate option.

Family Style & Buffet – With both of these menu styles, we recommend choosing at least two entrees and at least one salad, starch, and vegetable. Both of these options can be scaled up or down to match the formality of your event but buffets tend to feel less formal of the two. Since both of these options allow guests to serve themselves it’s important that you choose selections appealing to the masses and when in doubt, go for a third entree or add a second starch and vegetable.

Heavy Hors D’oeuvres/Stations – This type of menu style allows a lot of room for variety. We suggest starting with at least 3 hors d’oeuvres and 1 display, carving and action station. Breaking it down into a few smaller choices can help make choosing a menu feel less overwhelming and will also give you the assortment you’re looking for.

Unique Private Event Catering menu in Columbia, South Carolina


Choose additional catering enhancements to make your private event even more special!

Once you’ve determined the type of menu style best suited for your group and selected your menu items, you can now focus on any enhancements you may want to have.

Butler Passed Hors D’oeuvres – This is a great way to welcome your guests and let them go ahead and get a bite while they make their way through the room and say hello to all of the other event guests.

Dessert – A lot of time dessert can be forgotten so don’t let those with a sweet tooth down. Dessert can be a great way to add fun items to your menu; from cobbler to assorted dessert bars to s’mores, the possibilities are endless.

Signature Cocktail – Adding a signature cocktail to bar service is a great way to add your personal touch. If you don’t have a personal cocktail preference, you can always look to current cocktail trends or choose a cocktail perfect for the season.


For more information about catering for a private event at Riverbanks Zoo & Garden, give us a call at 803.602.0900 or email us at

With the Holidays right around the corner, now is the best time to start thinking about how you plan to celebrate the season with your fellow colleagues. Company holiday parties provide the perfect opportunity to reflect on the past year’s accomplishments and to thank your team for a job well done. Company holiday parties are also a great way to rally your team around your company’s shared goals and a wonderful way to make sure you start out the New Year on a positive note!

Let Riverbanks Zoo & Garden help take your 2019 Holiday Party to the next level with one of our Holiday Packages. By offering a choice of event space, menu, bar package, and additional enhancements you are able to customize your party to meet your preferences. Parties can also be tailored to meet just about any budget.

Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, South Carolina, makes for a unique and fun company holiday party venue!

Give your Holiday Party Guests a Memorable Experience with our Unique Event Spaces!

Step 1

Choosing the facility is the first step in this 4 step planning process! Riverbanks has 4 different event spaces that can be used for holiday parties. Three of these venues give your guests the truly memorable experience of Lights Before Christmas, Columbia’s longest running holiday tradition featuring nearly 1 million lights. Tickets are required, but available at a discounted rate. If this doesn’t sound like the best fit for your group, no worries! The Magnolia Room in the Botanical Gardens is for you.

A Kings Table set up for a wedding or private event in the Ndoki Lodge at Riverbanks Zoo.

  • Ndoki Lodge: With exposed beams and wood paneling, this room has a rustic feel with views of the forest. It comes with access to an outdoor patio area perfect for cocktails on those not so chilly Carolina nights.
  • The A.R.C: A truly unique space allowing guests to mingle among the aquatic animals and the reptiles. With several themed galleries, the possibilities are endless in this space.
  • The Birdhouse: Come party with the penguins…and other exotic birds! The Birdhouse is perfect for smaller groups or those looking for something a little different.
  • Magnolia Room: Located in our beautiful Botanical Garden, this room is a blank canvas perfect for any themed party.

The Magnolia Room is a beautiful and elegant private event venue in Columbia, South Carolina

All of these facilities are decorated during the holiday season with trees and other Christmas décor, with the exception of the Magnolia Room. Rental prices and seating capacities vary. Think this still might be a little out of your budget? Evening holiday parties booked in January come with 50% off the facility rental!

Fun Catering Menus to Make Your Zoo Holiday Party Shine

Step 2

Food is the best part of any party! Step two is picking the menu. Riverbanks Zoo & Garden offers full service catering! Our holiday package comes with three standard menus to meet varying budgets and appetites. Check out the menus here. Prefer a more formal menu with a plated or dinner buffet? We do that too! Those menus can be found separate from the package here.

Fun Catering Menu options to make your Private Event even better at Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia SC

Step 3

What’s a party without a little alcohol? Step 3 is all about the booze. Choose between our 4 different bar packages:

  • Full Bar Package
  • Beer & Wine Package
  • Consumption Bar
  • Cash Bar

Standard or premium brands can be stocked in the bars. Bar packages are available for 1 to 4 hours. You can keep one bar package the whole night, or switch packages. Also, champagne or a festive cocktail can be added for an extra $2 per person, to any hourly rate!

Give everyone a great time at your Holiday Party at the Zoo!

Step 4

The final step is to pick any additional enhancements or entertainment.

Enhancements allow for customization to fit your group. Have some real sweet eaters in your group? Add on some assorted dessert bars or assorted cheesecakes. Think your menu just doesn’t have enough food for your crowd? Add on extra food stations and hors d’oeuvres. Our action stations such as the Mashed Potato Bar and the Shrimp & Grits Bar are real crowd pleasers.

Keep your guests on their toes with a strolling magician. He will be sure to WOW them with the tricks up his sleeve. Or let your guests create their own memories with a photo booth. Those photos will document what a great time everyone had and what a fantastic party your company can throw!

Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, South Carolina, makes for a unique and fun company holiday party venue!

Book Ahead to Save a Headache! Plan Your Private Event Now

Make things even easier on yourself, by going ahead and booking your holiday party now, giving you plenty of time for everything else on your to-do list!

For more information, please visit our website at or call our Private Events Department at (803) 602-0900 to speak to one of our representatives.

Getting Social for Animal Welfare: Exploring Private Events in our Animal Exhibits

Around the office, social interaction means a lot more than posting updates to Facebook or saying the casual hello. Hands-on, in-person socialization is crucial to the well-being of not only you, your coworkers, family & friends, but all animals here at Riverbanks Zoo.

Riverbanks Zoo & Gardens offers not one, but three unique interactive animal venues that will not only amaze and entertain your clients & guests, but by getting “close enough to care” inspire them to help us conserve wildlife and wild places.


The A.R.C. - Aquarium Reptile Center makes for a uniquely beautiful event venue in Columbia, SC

A.R.C. Aquarium Reptile Center – An Unparalleled Event Setting in Columbia, South Carolina

Available one hour after the Zoo closes, it’s the perfect opportunity to help reinforce bonds between animals and guests.With vibrant desert life, a lush rainforest, and a 55,000 gallon coral reef backdrop boasting popular residents such as sharks, moon jellyfish and moray eels, the ARC (Aquarium Reptile Complex) makes an unparalleled event setting. Architecturally, the building is divided into smaller, individual galleries that provide guests with a variety of interesting exhibits and experiences in a more intimate setting geared toward groups of 70 – 200. And, perhaps most important, these experiences provide crucial education & enrichment for not only your guests but the animals as well.


Private events at the Birdhouse in Columbia, South Carolina are fun, exotic, and unique!

The Birdhouse – A remarkable evening event venue that has you doing good without even trying

Surrounded by lavish foliage, a grand wooden pergola and greeted by elegant Caribbean flamingos The Birdhouse at Riverbanks is a remarkable space to host an after-hours event. With several geographically themed exhibit areas highlighted by sky-lit atrium, there is more than enough space to accommodate seating, bars, displays or stations. Socializing and networking have never been more fun while in the company of penguins, hornbills and other exotic birds including the Bali mynah, one of the world’s rarest birds. A side benefit to these interactions is that the animals maintain comfort and confidence in interacting with visitors and your guests find the comfort and confidence in interacting with one another.


Sea Lion Landing at Riverbanks Zoo - a reenactment of San Francisco's famed Pier 39 in Columbia, South Carolina!

Sea Lion Landing – a bit of San Francisco in Columbia, South Carolina for intimate or large events

At Sea Lion Landing, begin the night at Pier 39, a remarkable recreation of San Francisco’s famous wharf complete with California sea lions and two harbor sealsand end it with an underwater experience like no other. At Riverbanks Zoo, we pride ourselves on providing enriching experiences for our animal residents & adoring guests. Everyone needs enrichment in the form of novel sights, sounds, scents, and experiences to keep their bodies and minds healthy. Enjoy nose-to-nose encounters through a giant 35-foot-long panoramic window with incredible indoor sights both underwater and overhead. An event in Sea Lion Landing can accommodate anywhere from 25 – 75 guests indoor and can be expanded to include Entry Plaza and accommodate up to 400 guests. Did you know your interaction with Riverbanks animal residents is every bit as important to their well-being as it is ours?

Sea Lion Landing at Riverbanks Zoo - a reenactment of San Francisco's famed Pier 39 in Columbia, South Carolina!


Through your event, not only does a significant portion of your event’s proceeds support conservation, endangered animals, & their habitats, the animals learn to be comfortable around people and in some cases, they even teach our guests a thing or two.

To get started on your own event for animal conservation, start by checking out some of our event packages created to help you be more social and less stressed. When you’re ready, contact us to find out more information or to tour one of our many unique venues. You can reach us by calling (803) 602-0900 or sending us an e-mail at

Nestled in the trees at the top of the hill on Riverbanks Zoo & Garden’s property is a hidden gem of a Columbia garden wedding venue – the Magnolia Room. If you’ve visited the Zoo and never ventured across the bridge to the Gardens, it’s likely you didn’t even know it was there! Boasting views of the Botanical Gardens and steps away from the stately fountains, it’s easy to see why the Magnolia Room is one of our most desired event spaces. From the popular garden wedding ceremonies that take place overlooking the lush gardens and flowing fountains, to classroom style meetings, to cocktail style holiday party receptions, any type of event is sure to be a fit in this space!

Fountains and Botanical Gardens at the Magnolia Room, a perfect Garden Wedding Venue in Columbia, SC

Seven Botanical Gardens Surround You in This Columbia Garden Wedding Venue

Event attendees have the convenience of a separate entrance and parking lot from the standard Zoo entrance and parking lot located at the Zoo’s Main Entrance. The Garden Entrance is located at 1300 Botanical Parkway, West Columbia, SC 29169. Having a closer entrance and parking lot makes accessing the Magnolia Room quick and easy for all event attendees. This separate entrance also allows guests to explore through 7 different gardens that create our Botanical Gardens on their way to the room. Yes, you read that right, seven gardens! Each garden includes a different subset of exotic and native plants; The Asian Garden, Bog Garden, Collection Garden, Dry Garden, Rose Garden, Shade Garden, and Walled Garden.

Wedding ceremony in the Botanical Gardens and Magnolia Room, a perfect Garden Wedding Venue in Columbia, SC

If you’re holding your event after hours (after 5pm) your rental of the Magnolia Room includes exclusive access to the entire 70 acres of Botanical Gardens. This gives you endless possibilities on where to pop up a personal set up, like a signature cocktail station set up along the walk for your guests to grab on their way to the venue, or having cocktail hour on the patio with a live musician playing. Also included in our after hours rentals in this space, transportation! You receive tram service for the entirety of your event, allowing guests to have the option to ride from the Botanical Garden Entrance to the Magnolia Room if they don’t wish to walk. Your heel-wearing guests will thank you!

Versatile Event Venue Space

The inside of the Magnolia Room boasts high vaulted ceilings and large floor to ceiling windows that overlook the terraces and Gardens. With neutral walls and slate flooring, it is our most versatile space. It that can easily be transformed to anything your imagination holds. As with all of our event rentals, tables, chairs, standard linens, set up, clean up, and an event manager are included. We cover all of the basics so all you have to worry about are items you want to add to make the event truly yours. In addition to the Magnolia Room itself – there is a smaller room off the beaten path that brides can use as a bridal suite or as a breakout room for meetings.

Fountains and Botanical Gardens at the Magnolia Room, a perfect Garden Wedding Venue in Columbia, SC

The Magnolia Room is the smaller of our two day-time spaces, but can still hold up to 350 for an after-hours reception! One of our event sales representatives will help you build your room layout to best fit your requests and maximize the use of the space. Create the Columbia garden wedding venue of your dreams, maximize beautiful photo opportunities, and host an accessible and enjoyable event for your guests!

Book your next event with us!  Contact us to get started, or check out some private event packages we’ve created to take the guess work off your plate. Magnolia Room not quite what you’re looking for? Learn more about the Ndoki Lodge, or take a look at all of our event venues and facilities.

As you may have heard, our Zoo will be saying farewell to one of our most loved species, African Elephants. While we’re sad to bid adieu to these popular pachyderms, we’re so excited to be bringing back a species that hasn’t been at Riverbanks since 1989, Southern white rhinoceros!

Exotic Atmosphere with Meerkats, Elephants, and now Rhinos

Our beloved pair of lady Elephants, Robin and Belle, have been a part of our herd at Riverbanks for over 10 years. The decision for their move was not made lightly, but was discovered to truly be more beneficial for them as well as have a lasting impact at Riverbanks. Our pachyderm pair will be making a move to a different facility with a larger Elephant herd. Since Elephants are generally social creatures, introducing them back into a larger herd is necessary to better their quality of life. Since the Ndoki Lodge was built in 2002, these gentle giants have been a huge part of events in this venue. The Lodge’s panoramic windows overlook the Meerkat and Elephant exhibits, giving event guests an exotic atmosphere and unique experience. From providing a little distraction and fun from the mundane meeting, to the brides and grooms getting their first pictures as a married couple with them, they have been a special addition to events here at Riverbanks.

Ndoki Lodge makes for a rustic outdoor wedding venue with unique views of the elephants, and coming in 2020 -the Northern White Rhinos!


Book the Ndoki Lodge for a Unique Event with a View!

After Belle and Robin have been moved to their new home in the fall, we will begin construction on the exhibit to prepare for our new animals’ arrival, the Southern white rhinos. Rhinos require a similar, but different exhibit space with activities for them to take part in, as Rhinos are busier bodies than Elephants are. Great news for our event hosts and guests – the Ndoki Lodge’s windows will still have a clear view of this exhibit, so event guests will now have the opportunity to be greeted by these massive mammals. In fact, White rhinos are the most social of the five species of rhinos, so we are expecting them to definitely make a debut! The new exhibit will offer enrichment activities: a tree, automatic feeders, and a brush, allowing for mental stimulation and positive interactions in their new environment. These objects will not only be beneficial for our new animal herd, but also benefit our guests by increasing animal visibility with more educational experience and an exciting atmosphere for our guests.

The addition of white rhinos allows Riverbanks to help in the efforts of limiting the endangerment of these mammals. The number of individuals of this species is dwindling; Northern white rhinos are now almost extinct due to poaching in the wild. By bringing these beauties to Riverbanks, we’re able to offer educational opportunities for our guests to learn about them, the uncertain future they face, and what we can do to help!


We offer unique event venues overlooking our elephant and now rhino enclosure in Columbia SC's Riverbanks Zoo.

Fun Goodbye Parties and Welcome Events on the Horizon

We look forward to welcoming rhinos back to Riverbanks, and hope that our event guests are ready to experience this memorable moment. The transition will begin in the Fall of 2019, but before the movement of these massive mammals takes place, Riverbanks will have special events and activities for all to take part in. We’ll even have a card you can sign to say farewell to our Elephant friends that will go with them to their new home, so be on the lookout for dates and details to come. Needless to say, we cannot wait to welcome rhinos back to Riverbanks! The new exhibit is slated to open in Summer 2020.

Plan ahead and be the first to book your private event in the Ndoki Lodge overlooking the new exhibit! Give us a call at (803)-602-0900 or e-mail us at